As we wrap up the 18th month of the COVID-19 pandemic, what does the future hold for Oregon workers’ compensation in-person hearings?
The Board remains closed to the public; this includes all hearing locations. The Board recently issued a notice indicating that “reopening” to the public will not take place until at least December 31, 2021. That means hearings will continue to take place via Zoom and telephone. The Board also advised that effective October 1, 2021, parties will be allowed to submit a request for in-person proceedings. These requests will be reviewed by the Presiding ALJ (Judge Dougherty) – not the judge conducting the hearing.
Here are some important considerations to think about when requesting an in-person hearing:
Is there a credibility/demeanor issue? If so, in person might be the best format for the judge to observe the claimant. But, keep in mind…
If an in-person hearing is requested, all parties are required to wear face masks inside the WCB offices (regardless of vaccination status).
Issues surrounding pure medical disputes between two or more doctors are best suited for telephonic or Zoom as the judge will be focused on exhibits, not witnesses.
Is there a responsibility issue with multiple parties? Keep in mind that there can be limitations on the number of parties judges can conference in; it may be more efficient to conduct these matters in person.
The Board has indicated that telephone and Zoom hearings are likely to continue even after offices reopen to the public. This technology has allowed for more efficient hearings and greater flexibility for parties and witnesses. Biscom access will also continue through December 31, 2021 so parties can still submit exhibits electronically.
The Board will continue to re-evaluate its COVID processes and procedures as the end of the year approaches. If you have any questions on these processes or procedures, or if you would like to discuss whether an in-person hearing is appropriate for your case, please contact me at 503-412-3111 or .